Our house is on the smaller side of space for four so there comes a time when my husband seeks the sky outside, on foot. He walks, he strides, he meets the folk who know him in unexpected places in town. This meeting takes place outside the front door in the cold, cold of day. I can see him out the window from my perch indoors, talking animatedly. No stranger receives such warmth so I step outside and see a masked woman in conversation with him and I recognize her by her long dark hair and short stature. She is a student who we know and my husband’s fatherly nature embraces her meekness. She has taken a job as a carer in a retirement home in Attleborough and is asking my husband for help with some shopping. He is a kind man and will help anyone who asks. This is no exception and I stand there watching this exchange and wonder what it could have been like to be on the receiving end of fatherliness. My own father, in his failure, is no match for my husband and I walk back indoors after the briefest of greetings. I have seen many of these moments with the man I married, each one a reminder of my good judgment. Middle age has been good to us and we are lucky to know the freedom that can exist in the depths of monogamy. No marriage is without its difficulties but this one, the second for me, is what I wish I had in the first.
My husband walks back in the house, smiling and sure of himself. He speaks warmly of the student and explains why she asked him for help. He tells me he feels protective of her, knowing how far away from home she is and that she finds herself lonely in the almost empty house she lives in. The other students have not returned during this long lockdown and she is left alone to keep her own company. I smile back at him, always present with his concerns and offer to make a cup of tea. This simple act during these simple times speaks volumes.